Interview: Patrick Lindsay Bowles
Patrick Lindsay Bowles is a linguist, teacher, writer, human-rights defender and father. His life work is battling government bureaucracies on the rights of the child. He tells us about his life and work in Paris in this frank interview.
Who is Patrick?
Patrick how would you describe yourself in three adjectives?
Parisian, Rabelaisian, Achillean, innumerate.
You were born and raised in Texas, but you live in Paris. What brought you to Paris?
I was – warning: Oprah Moment ahead – severely abused as a child, tried to run away from home many times, hid out in a local library one day, stumbled upon and was gorgonized by the French language section, came asap and have lived here most of my life.
What are the benefits of being bilingual (or more fittingly, an expert in both languages)?
For one thing, your neurological wiring makes you better at solving problems involving misleading clues. That means that you’re less easily spellbound by the obvious and more prone to love at first eye-roll.
Do French and English evoke different things to you?
Absolutely. Among other things, French evokes “a certain joie de vivre pickled in the scorn of fortune” (Rabelais), la mesure and la légèreté. English evokes humanity’s most magnificent f*** you, the Declaration of Independence.
You are an Oxford-trained linguist, a teacher, a writer (of articles for publications like The Times Literary Supplement and The Economist, books, essays, art criticism, serious and satirical blogs) and a human-rights defender. How do you balance this all with fatherhood?
Well, I’m a father first, and Paris is the finest city in the world for children, so we try to wring the clock’s neck. It helps that I get up at 4:30 and that we are emancipated from television.
How has your own childhood influenced your work and your approach to parenting?
My interest in the strategies of deception among the powerful informs virtually all of my work, the most important of which I’m only completing now, after the decades-long delay that is part of the survivor’s template. Everything stems from my having been crucially unable as a child to unmask an impostor.
My parenting is also reactive and remedial, so is values-centred and carefully anchored in the arts and sciences of the good life.
In what capacity have you worked for international organisations, including UNESCO and the Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme?
I’ve worked as a language consultant, a translator and a communication (i.e. speechwriting) consultant, but my most chronophagic focus has been on the institutional obstruction of the rights of the child.
Of all your accomplishments, which are you most proud?
First and foremost, my son, who is a masterpiece in progress. Secondly, having been publicly called by President Sarkozy’s personal legal counsel “a man wholly without morals” makes me positively giddy.
Image credit: David Robin
You write about an enormous range of topics. Can you give a brief description of the books you have published and the three you are working on?
Anglais chic anglais choc is about British class distinctions. Santé publique, mensonges d’etat is about our many public health scandals. I’ve published an excerpt from In Texas, the memoir I’m working on now. I’m also doing a short book called God Is Human Rights, and am finishing a novel, Without Anesthetic, which reworks the Pygmalion myth in a French setting.
Even before its publication, your book Santé publique, mensonges d’état (Public Health, State Lies) has stirred up controversy. What are the latest legal developments?
A March 13, 2012 ruling faintly applauds the chorus of indignant pedocriminal sopranos who are preventing publication, but we’ll appeal.
Patrick shares his personal favourites…
Who is your favourite French author?
Where is your favourite place in Paris to relax?
The gardens of Versailles in the summer twilight, when the bubble machines are all on and everyone is walking around drinking champagne while waiting for nightfall and the fireworks and fountain display to begin.
Where is your favourite place in Paris to take your son?
Around the block, chatting, as we take an American football or our baseball and gloves up to the Invalides, about the end of history, which was largely brought about by men who once lived within a few hundred yards of our salon – Napoleon, Lannes, Talleyrand, Jefferson, Marx; about who scored and who dropped the ball.
Where is your favourite place in Paris to write?
The Café Marly at the Louvre or at home with my harem waiting for me to get off work, plug them into their amplifiers and play.
Which is your favourite place in Paris to have lunch?
The teaching kitchen at the Ritz, where you put on an apron, spend half an hour helping the chef make lunch, then half an hour enjoying it together at the kitchen table.
Where is your favourite place in Paris to celebrate a big event?
At home in the rue de Varenne with friends in black tie; a kilted piper, when I can find one to hire, coming down the stairs, the last note of Mrs. Macpherson of Inveran synchronised with the popping of the cork, the children holding their ears, the women laughing, the men pouring champagne and the ghosts of famous neighbours shaking their heads at all the time they wasted not loving.
Thank you Patrick for taking the time to speak to us at My French Life™. We’ve enjoyed getting to know more about you and your life in Paris.